This tribute was written in response to a request by Kathy Madden, editor of “Quadrant” the newsletter for the C.G. Jung Foundation for Analytic Psychology of New York.
Marion Woodman, renowned and beloved Jungian analyst, visionary, author, teacher, lecturer, mentor and dear friend passed away on July 9, 2018 a month before her 90th birthday. She left us a brilliant legacy that lives on through her writing, recorded work and through her international network of students, analysands, colleagues and all who knew as well as the many women and men whom she inspired.
Marion Woodman was a visionary pioneer. She transported Carl Jung's analytic work into uncharted territory, courageously pushing the boundaries of classical analytic psychology to include psyche/soma integration, eating disorders, addictions and reclaiming feminine consciousness in embodied soul.
Marion's work emerged out of necessity, born of her personal struggle with anorexia and in later years with cancer and numerous health issues. Psyche's challenges manifested for her in soma and ultimately became the portal to her own healing. Throughout her life, she diligently persisted in working with her own images, drawn from her dreams and creative imagination and expressed through her attention to her body's nuance, she healed herself against all odds.
Through her dedication to her deep soul work, she renewed our understanding of the "feminine" as animated soul in both women and in men, long rejected by the patriarchy.
Marion Woodman was born Marion Boa on August 15,1928, in Ontario, Canada, the daughter of a Canadian Minister and a Scotch-Irish Mother, the eldest child with two older brothers, Bruce Boa and Fraser Boa, both of whom she adored. Throughout her life, the fiery spirit of her Celtic roots merged with the deep poetic wisdom and love of scholarship she had inherited from her father. She was a father's daughter and her own perfectionism in response to her yearning toward spirit proved to be both her wound and her great gift. Her resulting anorexia and illness sent her into analysis with beloved Jungian analyst, E.A. Bennet and eventually spurred her own analytic training in Zurich. It was a long road back to healing after a near death experience in India and an encounter with the living spirit of the Black Madonna which transformed her life and her relationship to the emerging feminine consciousness arising out of her body's wisdom. For Marion, an intuitive, the god came through her sensate function and she was repeatedly driven into deeper encounters with the dark feminine by severe health crises over the course of her life.
Marion described herself as an introvert, but this was not evident upon meeting her. She possessed a childlike charm and a sense of humor which would arise unbidden out of her intense focussed concentration. She was brilliant, impassioned, funny, expressive and playful. A remarkable listener, every fibre of her being was focussed on the speaker when listening. When she was focused intently on someone, they would feel that they were the only person in the room. This extraordinary "Presence" was felt by everyone who she came into contact with.
By the time I first met Marion, I had been immersed in her work for 16 years having been introduced to her work while living in Toronto. In spite of living only two subway stops from her Toronto office, I first met her for the first time in 1999 in Pajaro Dunes in central California near where I was living in Santa Cruz. Patty Flowers of UCSC Extension Humanities had read "Addiction to Perfection" and had since been organizing teaching intensives since the 1980s. I became a student of the dynamic Intensives called BodySoul Rhythms which Marion had co-created with remarkable dance/movement teacher, Mary Hamilton formerly of the National Ballet of Canada and delightfully talented Stratford Ontario theatre voice/mask coach, Anne Skinner. They were eventually joined by Paula Reeves, Jungian psychologist and together they developed a powerful and lovingly contained teaching program.
In our BodySoul work, Marion inspired us to be present in body and soul, allowing the emergence of the subtle body from our dreams so that we could learn to live from our own true standpoint. She wove story with golden strands of metaphor which she ascertained was the bridge between the archetypal and the personal worlds. Our days were filled with play, laughter, tears, grief and joy. We were held with deep respect and love in a container; many of us feeling seen and heard for the first time in our lives. In Marion's world to individuate included reclaiming and living from feeling, intuition, instinct and Soul.
Light in Matter was the lens through which Marion perceived the soul's awakening to the animated beauty of the material world. For her, living Spirit was illuminated in the details. In the blossoming of a flower, a sunset, a song, a moment of shared laughter or grief, the extraordinary is manifest through the ordinary. We learned that the Soul in each of us is the feminine mediator between Spirit and Matter.
Marion's personal mantra "I am a woman greatly loved and capable of great loving" remains a gentle but powerful reminder to me in the dark moments when the shadow threatens to engulf me.
The last time I met with Marion in July of 2015. It was a delightful and unforgettable meeting. With cohort and friend, Barbara Susan Booth we visited Marion in London, Ontario. In spite of her dementia, through which she floated in and out, her spirit was vibrant and she was radiant. We were all joyfully engaged in conversation, sharing precious memories. After one hour as we were preparing to leave, fearing that she was tired and our parking meter was expiring, she blithely remarked. "We are not done yet, are we?” and persuaded us to stay. So, we stayed another glorious hour and the parking ticket was well worth it.
Marion was always keenly attuned to current world events and how the collective psyche is affecting our world. She kept abreast of news and was deeply concerned about our climate crisis, politics, and the destruction of our planet and its precious creatures.
In this Kairos moment of personal and epoch shifts on our besieged planet, we begin to witness the steady rise of the feminine arising from the ground up. Today Marion's warnings about the effects of desecrating our bodies and our earth ring more true than ever.
If we can stand in the unknown, holding the tension of paradox and surrender to the possibility that the transcendent third will come through as grace, we may yet open to new vistas and a return to an ensouled world. In our times of chaos, cataclysmic climate change, war, mass migration of humans and animals and the slow collapse of patriarchy, now more than ever Marion Woodman's work is an anthem to the promise of the rising feminine as the anima mundi, the Soul of the world. Marion was deeply concerned towards the end of her life that her "god given" work would be lost. She would be gladdened to witness the continuing expansion and deepening of her work around the globe.
In conclusion, it seems apt to include this excerpt form T.S. Eliot's “Four Quartets” which Marion returned to often when she was in need of solace while holding that difficult tension of the opposites in darkest times.
“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the hope and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”1
Sweet dreams, dearest Marion. May you ever delight in the dance with your beloved bridegroom.
1. T.S.Eliot, Four Quartets, "East Coker", pp. 28;
Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Boston, New York, 1971.